With Donald Trump's latest moral outrage---denigrating the Muslim-American parents of a dead war hero and claiming his "sacrifice" as a businessman equates to a hero's ultimate sacrifice---Republicans up and down the line, from elected leaders to the party's grass roots, have to be pondering their presidential pick.
Republicans are famously loyal. They also have long claimed the mantle of moral rectitude, which high claim has suffered badly of late---with a war of choice (Iraq), a descent into torture, a preference for the 1 percent over the 99 percent, a dedication to an unregulated free market, no matter the destruction it wreaks, among other moral failings. And these failings compound: Out of the failed state of Iraq arose ISIS, which Republicans out of moral guilt try to put on President Obama.
But, starting right now, today, Republicans could mount a moral reawakening of their party---by repudiating their moral catastrophe of a presidential nominee.
Let them count the ways in which Donald Trump fails the moral test---denigrating the Muslim-American parents and their heroic son, denigrating the judge of Mexican-American heritage, denigrating women as "fat pigs," threatening nuclear warfare, advocating torture, inviting foreign espionage to find Hillary Clinton's missing State Department emails, the list is long and various---and then, let them declare a New Day for the Grand Old Party.
Yes, it may mean losing the election in November, but the Republicans are going to lose anyway (I predict). Besides, basic political calculus dictates: The bigger Trump's loss and the more it is attributed to his moral failings, thanks in part to the case made by Republican reformers (with lots of help from the Democrats, of course), the stronger the hand of those GOP reformers post-election and the cleaner the slate from which to proceed.
Otherwise, if no moral reform is mounted, after Trump's loss in November the GOP establishment, or whatever desperate members remain of it, will try to reinstate the old---discredited---Republican brand. Not good. Or, might moral reform be the way the GOP establishment recovers its best self?
At the moment, it is painful to watch GOP "leaders" like House speaker Paul Ryan, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and Senator John McCain all denounce Trump, but then fail to withdraw their endorsement. President Obama now calls on Republicans to do exactly that: repudiate Trump. As Mr. Obama puts it, "The question they have to ask themselves is: If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?"
Indeed. Of course, given Republicans' loathing of Mr. Obama, his advice won't likely be taken. But this doesn't mean the advice isn't sound or is a Trojan horse. This Democrat believes our democracy functions better with a strong two-party system.
Moreover, were Republicans to mount and succeed with their party's moral reawakening, they'd be better able to recognize the moral standing of the opposing party. Democrats are beyond tired at being tagged as amoral or pagan by the errant Republicans. True moral rectitude recognizes the validity of all humans.
Moral reform is the most profound and most powerful kind of reform. It provides a "firm foundation," as Martin Luther, the first Protestant, demonstrated in his argument against an errant Catholic Church in the 16th century. Moral reform is possible in all human endeavors, including politics.
So, Republicans: Be a "profile in courage." Be a Martin Luther, who in protest said, "Here I stand, I can do no other." Or, less grandly, as the Nike ad urges, "Just do it"---because you know sooner or later it must be done. Repudiate Donald Trump and proceed with your party's moral reform. History, country, conscience---and party---require it.
Carla Seaquist's latest book is titled "Can America Save Itself from Decline?: Politics, Culture, Morality." An earlier book is titled "Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character." Also a playwright, she published "Two Plays of Life and Death" and is at work on a play titled "Prodigal."